“A War of the Powerful Against the Weak”

tony-maglianoBy Tony Magliano

In many places throughout the world there is a widening gulf, chasm, gap between races, tribes, classes, cultures, economic factions, political parties, religions and nations.

And these divides often pit the powerful against the vulnerable. The desire, and even addiction, of so many of the wealthy and powerful for more wealth and power is causing tremendous suffering – suffering largely untold.

Consider these facts: According to the World Bank approximately 700 million human beings live in extreme poverty struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day, while according to the anti-poverty organization Oxfam eight billionaires now own as much wealth as half the world (see: http://bit.ly/2jOcybW). Imagine, eight extremely wealthy men have as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people.

Governments throughout the world spend approximately $1.7 trillion annually to beef-up their militaries (see: http://bit.ly/1bAvGVB) – with the U.S. being the biggest spender –  while approximately 16,000 children are left to die every day from hunger and hunger related illnesses.

While 56 million unborn babies worldwide are the victims of abortion every year (see: http://bit.ly/1uSLEiR), and while approximately 1 million unborn babies are aborted every year in the U.S, Planned Parenthood – America’s largest abortion provider – took in over $1 billion in 2016 (see: http://bit.ly/2fjriSS).

And while dangerous amounts of fossil fuel generated global warming gases are emitted into the atmosphere – due mostly to human activity (see: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/) – wealthy fossil fuel corporations are receiving huge U.S. taxpayer subsidies (see: http://bit.ly/2jPftFW).

These examples, and many more like them, are in the words of Pope St. John Paul II “a war of the powerful against the weak.” This teaching from his prophetic encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) is bolstered by these accompanying words: We are confronted by a “structure of sin” which is “characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable ‘culture of death.’ ’’

In the midst of this “war of the powerful against the weak,” and the “structure of sin” – where many dominant individuals, numerous government laws and a myriad of corporate policies crush the poor and vulnerable – it is imperative that followers of the God of love, life, justice and peace grasp hands and hearts to form one united voice on behalf of all who suffer.

Sadly, this is easier said than done.

Among many Catholics, and numerous other Christians, there exists a tremendous prolife, social justice and peace divide. And it is a monumental obstacle to advancing the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Many Christians committed to ending the mass murder of abortion often rationalize and thus accept the mass murder of war. And conversely, many Christians committed to ending the mass murder of war, often rationalize and accept the mass murder of abortion – or at least look the other way.

And many other similar comparisons concerning poverty, hunger, homelessness, the environment, etc., can be made here.

This unnecessary ranking of the issues, this false dichotomy is harmful to building a world where everyone matters.

Saying that human beings in certain circumstances deserve protection of their lives and dignity, while in other certain circumstances do not, is not only immoral, it is illogical.

St. John Paul drives home this point perfectly: “Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.    

Remembering the Amariyah Shelter Massacre in Iraq

by Art Laffin, Teacher of Peace
 
Today marks the 26th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq. There is no indication that the U.S. government and military will ever repent for this unspeakable war crime. And it is unlikely few, if any religious, political or military leader, will ever decry this mortal sin! But on this day the people of Amariyah and Iraq remember and continue to mourn and grieve, and still ask why? 
 
Today’s reading from the Book of Genesis recounts the story of Cain killing his brother Abel. When the Lord confronts Cain about what he had done, the Lord declares: “Listen: your brother’s blood cries out from the soil!” (GN 4:1-15) Yes, today the blood of far too many Iraqi’s cry out from the soil! Jesus reminds his followers–then and now–of the command: “Thou shall not kill!” “Love one another.”  
God forgive the U.S. for defying these divine commands. Let us pray that our nation will truly repent for this crime, part of a much larger crime of 26 years of U.S. war-making in Iraq, which has resulted in over several million Iraqi deaths from bombings and sanctions, social upheaval, over four million refugees, immeasurable trauma for an entire society, political instability, and a seemingly endless cycle of violence. All of these factors have served to create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Every effort must be made to resist U.S. plans to continue the cycle of violence by waging war against ISIS. If there is any hope to make true peace with Iraq, the U.S. must express forgiveness and make reparations to the Iraqi people for its war-making, withdraw all troops, CIA and private contractors from Iraq, and seek a path of genuine dialogue and diplomacy. 
 
Early this morning, I held a sign at the weekly Dorothy Day Catholic Worker-sponsored Pentagon peace vigil, calling on Pentagon workers streaming into the center of warmaking on our planet to remember and repent for the war crime of Amariyah.  In the name of all victims, we continue to call for the abolition of war and all weapons of war, including killer drones and nuclear weapons, for an end to all U.S. military intervention worldwide, as well as for an end to torture, racial hatred and violence, and all forms of oppression as we seek to create the Beloved Community.
 
The following was written by Art Laffin during his visit to the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq on Feb. 13, 1998, the 7th anniversary of the bombing. Art went to Iraq with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation.

Amariyah
by Art Laffin

February 13, 1991, 4:00 a.m.

Over 1,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children still sleeping, take refuge from the terror of U.S. bombs at a shelter in Amariyah, just outside Baghdad.
For several days a surveillance plane had flown over the shelter. U.S. officials say they think Saddam Hussein is there. The U.S. military knows different. A decision is made in secret by President George Bush, Defense (War) Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell — bomb the shelter, massacre the innocents!
First one “smart” bomb is dropped to make an opening in the roof, killing scores of people.
Then, through the opening, another bomb falls, reaching deep into the shelter basement, killing everyone in its path.
In total, nearly a thousand Iraqis are murdered, women and children burned alive. No more than 17 survive.
I see flesh still seared on a wall under the basement stairway. People, reduced to mere shadows, form a human silhouette on the stone wall.
A replay of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama.
The crime, premeditated and barbarous.
The sin, mortal.
The perpetrators unrepentant!
Seven years later, eight peacemakers from the U.S. and the U.K. come to pay homage to the victims at this shelter,
turned inferno,
turned shrine.
Photos and drawings of the dead adorn the walls of the shelter.
We repent, we mourn, we witness
the ongoing nightmare of the survivors.
We eight do what we can –
to console the mourners,
offering love and solidarity to the Iraqi people, already crucified to a cross of economic sanctions.
We stand with the victims, the children, seeking to stay the death-dealing hand of the U.S. empire.